The giant waves that break off Mullaghmore Head in Ireland’s County Sligo are as serious as you’ll find anywhere in the world. Last winter, experienced local surfer John Monahan nearly drowned there after breaking his femur and two ribs during a wipeout. In 2017, the surf photographer Ian Mitchinson says he told himself “to brace for death” after he was pinned underwater by a monster wave. The surf forecasting website Magic Seaweed describes the spot as “a savage, shallow, reefbreak” that “handles any size swell, producing massive tubes, but needs to be well overhead to break clear of exposed rocks.” So for Tiree surfer Ben Larg, still aged just 14, to turn up at Mullaghmore earlier this week and ride a wave estimated to be around 30-feet high, almost beggars belief.
The reigning under-18 Scottish Surfing Champion, Larg has already represented Scotland in international contests in the Azores, Japan and Portugal but recently set his sights on surfing big waves in Ireland. He spent much of the last month training there with big wave specialists Peter Conroy and Ollie O’Flaherty, and after several failed attempts due to weather to surf another spot called Aileen’s, which breaks beneath the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, on Tuesday Larg took a trip to witness the even bigger waves at Mullaghmore. Conditions were near-perfect, with a long-interval swell and offshore winds, and Larg was supported by big wave surfers Conroy, O’Flaherty and Dylan Stott.
“I’d told my Mum and Dad that I would just be watching so they didn’t come along,” Larg said, “but after a few hours watching from the jet ski in the channel, Dylan Stott asked me if I wanted to be towed into a wave. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to catch a wave. It was my dream to surf big waves in Ireland and I’m so happy I got to surf Mullaghmore. I want to thank all of the Irish surfers I’ve met for helping me to do this. I can’t wait to surf more big waves in the future and hope that this can help me to attract a sponsor.”
The 30-foot wave Larg caught makes him the youngest ever to surf a wave that size at Mullaghmore, and images of his ride might remind surfers of a certain age of the famous “60 Days that Shook the Pacific” Surfer Magazine cover from 1994 which showed another 14 year-old, Jay Moriarity, surfing a similar sized-wave at Californian big wave spot Mavericks. The only difference: Moriarity’s ride ended in a horrific wipeout; Larg rode his wave all the way to the channel.
Conroy, who is a member of the Irish Tow Surf Rescue Club, said: “Surfing big waves is more of a mental thing than a physical thing. Having the right mindset and courage to face what could potentially hurt you is what it’s all about. After training with Ben and seeing his ability in the water and out, I felt great seeing him manhandle such a good wave in Mullahgmore. He rode the wave very, very well and you could see the confidence in his surfing the whole wave. I’m very happy to have met Ben and spark the love for bigger waves. He did an absolutely brilliant job at waiting and observing the wave and wanted to try it. And I’m very happy he did. I can’t wait to see him out there again.”
The wave was caught on film by production company Urbancroft Films, who have been following Larg and his family for the last three years for a feature-length documentary, Riding the Wave. The film has been supported by Screen Scotland and is due for release in 2020.
The producer and director of the film, Martyn Robertson said, “We’ve been following Ben’s story since he was 12 and this wave tops off what was already an amazing story. Ben and his family are completely inspirational and we’re really looking forward to completing the film and releasing it in 2020.”